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Polkadot announces new experimental network Kusama

Adriana Hamacher


Polkadot, the team behind the blockchain protocol—which promises to create an internet of interoperable blockchains—today announced the “early, unaudited and unrefined delivery of Polkadot” in the shape of an experimental network dubbed Kusama.

Kusama will launch this summer and will have its own token, KSM, according to the announcement. It’s designed to be a permanent proving ground, allowing Polkadot’s developer teams to experiment with the project’s cutting-edge features.

These include parachains—blockchains that connect with the Polkadot network and can access its proof-of-stake transaction validation, security and on-chain governance features (for more on on-chain vs off-chain governance, see here.)

Kusama, says the release, will act as a kind of canary in the coalmine, alerting the team if something is amiss. 

“Major network releases tend to have a preliminary staging ground to ‘kick the tyres’ of the new technology, explained Gavin Wood, founder of Polkadot and its administrative arm, the Web3 Foundation.

But the team stress that Kusama is no testnet, with the centralised properties that implies; it’s the whole caboodle, and will function “under real economic conditions,” according to the project’s FAQ page

“Polkadot introduces so much cutting-edge technology that we decided to dispense using fake networks with pre-designed incentivizations [sic],” said Wood. He added that KSM will be distributed, like for like, to those who already own Polkadot’s token, DOT. 

The token is not designed to be tradable, so has no fiat value. It will enable holders to validate transactions, nominate validators, bond parachains and vote on governance issues on the Kusama platform, said the announcement. 

A small percentage of DOT has been reserved to encourage people to use the network, via incentives such as a grants process, and details will be firmed up nearer to network launch. 

Polkadot is one of the most hotly anticipated launches, but the project is not without controversy. Wood is an Ethereum co-founder and his company, Parity, powers large chunks of Ethereum, handling some $50 billion worth of assets, raising allegations of conflict of interest (denied by the Polkadot team.)

The Polkadot Princess

Most recently, the Web3 Foundation closed a private sale of tokens to further fund Polkadot’s development. The project claims a $1.2 billion valuation. However, the foundation did not disclose the recent sale’s proceeds, and it is not clear whether the full $60 million sought was raised.

Kusama, on the surface, appears to be a level-headed approach to ensuring that the Polkadot network functions as well as can be expected at launch. But it will also provide a shop window via which detractors can judge the project’s progress. 

Investors will be wise to keep an eye on the bird.